As we fast approach Alex Ferguson’s 25 year anniversary as Manchester United manager we thought we would take a look back at both the good and the bad times for Sir Alex Ferguson. No doubt the accolades will be rolling in from all over the world for Alex Ferguson, blogs, media articles, you name it, they will all be brown nosing Sir Alex – yes he’s the best and probably the greatest manager ever (we will probably pay homage at some point), but with every success usually comes a failure and Alex Ferguson is not immune to failure. So we thought we would look at both Sir Alex’s best and worst signings just to mix things up a little, so here me go…
Fergie’s top 5 best signings
5. Ruud van Nistelrooy – 150 appearances and 95 goals
Ruud van Nistelrooy took a while to make it to Manchester United after injury problems scuppered Fergie’s initial move for the player. He was so good, Fergie went back for him and what a decision it was despite the fact he had suffered a bad injury. Ruud pushed United on to another level, injecting a touch of class in to a Manchester United frontline that was built around Yorke and Cole. van Nistelrooy went on to become one for Manchester United greatest strikers, scoring 95 goals in 150 games, an impressive record that has put him in to the top 10 of Manchester United all-time top scorers.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo – 196 appearances and 84 goals
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the world’s greatest footballers, a tribute to his natural talent but also a tribute to Alex Ferguson. Ronaldo on Fergie “He’s been my father in sport, one of the most important factors and most influential in my career” and there is no doubt this astute signing was eventually as important for Manchester United as it was for Ronaldo’s career. Fergie only paid just over £12m for Ronaldo, a true bargain and what a return they got for him, after the winger lit up Old Trafford for 6 years. Ronaldo could be higher on the list of Fergie’s best signings, however he took a while to develop and didn’t have an instant effect on the side. From a football perspective the player Ronaldo developed in to was immense and from a business perspective he will no doubt remain one of the biggest profits that football will ever see.
3. Roy Keane – 480 appearances and 51 goals
Fergie saw something in Roy Keane that suggested he would be one of the natural successors to the Bryan Robson/Paul Ince partnership in the Manchester United midfield. This is a signing that nearly didn’t take place as Keane almost signed for Blackburn before Fergie called him and persuaded him otherwise. Ferguson’s persistence with Keane has been fully justified as he ruled the Manchester United midfield for 12 years and bossed every Premier League midfielder at one time or another. As Scholes emerged as Keane’s foil a perfect partnership emerged of graft and class. The amount of appearances Keane made, plus his elligence to Manchester United meant he was one of Fergie’s best signings as he carved a legacy out for himself at the club. More than that the way Fergie was able to handle Keane meant he could go on to handle the personality of any player in world football.
2. Eric Cantona – 144 appearances and 64 goals
Fergie bought Cantona to Old Trafford in 1992 after he had only been at Leeds United just over a season, playing only 28 times. Cantona had a reputation as a good player, with a difficult attitude, which is why Graeme Souness turned down the chance to sign him for Liverpool on the 6th November 1991 (cue the twilight zone music). This was to Fergie’s benefit as Liverpool were the dominant side of the 90’s and the signing of Cantona was instrumental in leading Manchester United to become first Premier League Champions. Things could have been so different after Fergie tried to sign David Hurst, Brian Deane and Matt Le Tissier, but failed, before getting Cantona on the off-chance following Leeds enquiring about the availability of Denis Irwin (who would have been our number 6 best signing). During Cantona’s time at United he was able to light up the theatre of dreams with his charismatic display’s helping to guide Manchester United to 4 titles in 5 seasons and starting a new continental era at the club.
1. Peter Schmeichel – 292 appearances and 1 goal
When Peter Schmeichel was announced as a Manchester United player the question on the majority of football fans lips was ‘who?’, but the uncertainty over the player didn’t last long as he was voted ‘The World’s Best Goalkeeper’ in 1992. This 15 stone, 6ft 4ins giant had a steady rise to prominence from his early days at Danish club ‘Hero’, a fitting start for a man who became a hero to many Manchester United fans. Ferguson described Schmeichel as the ‘bargain of the century’, he was more than worth his weight in gold as he started to impress between the sticks for United, carving out a reputation for himself as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. He had a huge influence on the Manchester United team as a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room, with his moans at the Manchester United defence as legendary as Alex Ferguson’s ‘hairdryer’. The two huge personalities of Schmeichel and Ferguson clashed and he was actually sacked by Ferguson, but had a reprieve from the Scotsman eventually. This could be one of Ferguson’s finest moments as Manchester United manager, a moment that defined the future of Schmeichel and the Manchester United team – we all know how difficult he was to replace, it was only once van der Sar (would have been number 7) signed that his gloves were truly filled. Manchester United and Schmeichel won 5 Premier League titles, 3 FA cups, 1 League Cup and the UEFA Champions League. Simply one of the best goalkeepers ever.
5. David Bellion – 24 appearences and 4 goals
David Bellion was a controversial signing and a bad one when he signed for Manchester United in 2003 for an initial fee of £2m. Bellion had done little-to-nothing at Sunderland, he was basically quick and showed signs of having some potential, this was enough for Fergie. The move was shrouded in controversy over claims that United ‘tapped-up’ Bellion, were paying his phone bill whilst at Sunderland with a dodgy agent behind the whole thing. He was hardly a model professional at Sunderland after going AWOL and stating he was mentally unfit to play. One of the worst and something dodgy happened in signing this amazingly average player.
4. Kleberson – 20 appearances and 0 goals
Kleberson is one of Ferguson’s few impulse buys. Kleberson was touted around English clubs following some decent displays in a very good Brazil team that won the 2002 World Cup. He did nothing at Manchester United, only making 20 appearances in total after costing a reported £6.5m fee. Awful buy.
3. Liam Miller – 9 appearances and 0 goals
The only redeeming feature about Fergie’s signing of Liam Miller was the fact he was on a free. The midfielder, who had limited success at Celtic, made only 9 appearances for the Red Devils and it showed his lack of ability and class when United were down to the bare bones and Fergie still didn’t even pick him. Poor.
2. Eric Djemba Djemba – 20 appearances and 0 goals
The majority of players, at any level in England and possibly the world, are better than Eric Djemba Djemba. The Cameroon international was a player who lacked skill and ability and all he could do was go hard in to challenges. Despite making a name for himself in France, during a time when the standard of French football was pretty low, he literally had nothing in his locker other than fouls. Nuff said on this guy – Fergie what were you thinking?!
1. Massimo Taibi – 4 appearances
Massimo Taibi signed for Manchester United for £4.5m and was dubbed ‘The Blind Venetian’ playing only 4 matches – the video does the rest. Stinking the place up!
These are our best and worst, who are yours? Don’t be shy and let us know below! Make sure you share the debate, 25 years worth of in’s and out’s to get through…